Bavarian Zugspitze Railway

The Bavarian Zugspitze Railway (German: Bayerische Zugspitzbahn) is one of four rack railways still working in Germany, along with the Wendelstein Railway, the Drachenfels Railway and the Stuttgart Rack Railway. The metre gauge line runs from Garmisch in the centre of Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the Zugspitzplatt, approximately 300 metres below Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. The line culminates at 2,650 metres above sea level, which makes it the highest railway in Germany and the third highest in Europe. It is also the railway in Europe with the biggest height difference: 1,945 metres, the lower half being open-air and the upper half being underground.

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-11678, Bergbahn auf die Zugspitze.jpg
Early photograph from May 1931
Line number9540
Route number11031
Line length19.0 km (11.8 mi)
Rack systemRiggenbach
Track gauge1,000 mm (3 ft 3+38 in) metre gauge
ElectrificationCatenary (1500 V DC)
Operating speed70 km/h (43 mph) max.
Maximum inclineAdhesion 3.51  %
Rack rail 25  %
Route map
0,0 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
705 m
1,2 Hausbergbahn
2.0 Rießersee
closed in 1985
Bridge over the Außerfern Railway
Katzenstein Tunnel (75 m)
4.1 Kreuzeck- / Alpspitz Railway
754 m
5.5 Hammersbach
766 m
7.5 Grainau
Beginn Zahnstange
751 m
Crossing loop 1
Crossing loop 2
10.7 Eibsee
1008 m
Water tank station
1152 m
Kleiner Tunnel (70 m)
Crossing loop 3
1478 m
14.1 Riffelriss
1640 m
1640 m
15.0 Window 1
1820 m
Crossing loop 4
2115 m
17.1 Höllental
2525 m
18.6 Schneefernerhaus
2650 m
Rosi Tunnel (975 m)
0.9 Zugspitzplatt
2588 m

The line is operated by the Bayerischen Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG (BZB), whose majority owner is the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Municipal Works. In 2007 the Zugspitze Railway was nominated for a Historic landmarks of civil engineering in Germany award.

The Zugspitze is accessible via the Seilbahn Zugspitze from Eibsee Lake or Tyrolean Zugspitze Cable Car.


Opening of the lineEdit

The railway was built between 1928 and 1930 and opened in three stages. The first was the 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) long centre section between Grainau and the Eibsee which went into operation on 19 February 1929. On 19 December 1929 it was followed by the 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) long section between Garmisch and Grainau, including the important tourist connexion to the main railway network of the Deutsche Reichsbahn. On 8 July 1930 the last 7.9 kilometres (4.9 mi) long section between the Eibsee and the – now closed – summit station of Schneefernerhaus was opened, including the final 4,466 metres (14,652 ft) long Zugspitze Tunnel.

New summit section since 1987Edit

In 1987 the route of the railway in the summit area was changed and the 975 metres (3,199 ft) long "Rosi Tunnel" opened. The tunnel was named after the skier, Rosi Mittermaier, who was the tunnel patroness (Tunnelpatin) at the time. The tunnel branches from the 1930-built Zugspitze Tunnel about three-quarters of the way along it, and runs to the somewhat lower Zugspitzplatt plateau at 2,588 metres (8,491 ft). Here, below the Sonn-Alpin Restaurant is the new Glacier Station (Gletscher-Bahnhof) in the middle of the ski area.

The overall length of the Zugspitze Railway was extended from 18.6 kilometres (11.6 mi) to its current 19.0 kilometres (11.8 mi). For five years, both termini were worked in parallel, but since November 1992 the old route to the Schneefernerhausis is no longer routinely worked.


The Zugspitze Railway starts in the quarter of Garmisch at a height of 705 metres (2,313 ft). Here the BZB runs its own terminal station which is operationally entirely separate from the adjacent standard gauge station of the Deutsche Bahn AG. Moreover, it is still just called Garmisch, whereas the DB station bears the double-barrelled name of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, reflecting the contentious merger, formally in 1935, of the two municipalities.[1]

For the first 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi), as far as Grainau, the Zugspitze Railway runs as an adhesion line. Of this section, the first 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) run parallel to the Ausserfern Railway, built in 1913. The mountain section begins in Grainau station, is equipped with a Riggenbach rack system, and is 11.5 kilometres (7.1 mi) long.

The railway climbs steeply uphill from Grainau, passes Eibsee station and finally arrives at the halt of Riffelriss. Immediately after the halt is the entrance to the Zugspitze Tunnel, which together with the Rosi Tunnel takes trains to the current terminus at Zugspitzplatt. About a kilometre before it reaches the terminus, the underground section of the line passes almost exactly below the summit of the Zugspitze, and a few metres away from the border with the Austrian state of Tyrol.[2]


The Zugspitzbahn runs from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Zugspitzplatt, a distance of 19.0 km. The track gauge is 1,000 mm and the electrification system is 1,500 V D.C. overhead line. The lower section from Garmisch to Eibsee is operated as an adhesion railway with rack assistance (i.e. using a cog-wheel system) from Grainau to Eibsee. The section above Eibsee is operated as rack only using the Riggenbach system. Passengers travelling the whole line from Garmisch to Zugspitzplatt stay on the same train.[3]



  1. ^ "Die erzwungene Vereinigung". Alois Schwarzmüller, Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  2. ^ Retrieved from the Google Earth geoinformation system
  3. ^ Karl Arne Richter (editor), Europäische Bahnen '11, Eurailpress, Hamburg, 2010, ISBN 978-3-7771-0413-3;


External linksEdit

Coordinates: 47°29′30″N 11°05′49″E / 47.491785°N 11.097019°E / 47.491785; 11.097019